For the third year in a row, the Armored Artemises won the Connecticut State FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge) Championship—finishing ahead of 23 other teams to take home the Inspire Award at Wolcott High School on Feb. 18.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a robotics community that prepares youth for the future through a suite of inclusive, team-based robotics programs.
Armored Artemises, a Glastonbury community robotics team consisting of students from middle and high school, will now head to the World Competition in Texas next month.
Robotics is an interdisciplinary branch of computer science and engineering that involves the design, construction, operation, and use of robots.
Along with excelling at robotics, the team of eight members is equally passionate about making STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) more accessible to girls and gender minorities.
The team’s mission is to introduce youth to STEM through fun, hands-on experiences such as FIRST.
Armored Artemises was founded by current members Audra Becher and Harlow Ton-That, who wanted to take their interest in robotics to another level.
“It started as an all-girls team because we wanted to provide an inclusive environment for girls who were interested in STEM and robotics,” recalled Becher. “After four years we decided to become a gender minorities team to become more inclusive to transgender and non-binary students as well.”
Ton-That first became interested in robotics in kindergarten after attending a FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) for the first time, calling the initial experience “the coolest thing” he had seen at the time.
Becher and Ton-That were on a FIRST Lego League (FLL) team together in grade school and wanted to expand on their passion, creating a team that is now a three-time state champion.
The robotics season runs from January through April and each year the strategy for competition changes, meaning the robot will change too. Armored Artemises’ current robot is named Wazowski and the team’s goal at the beginning of the season was to make it a one-of-a-kind.
“A majority of the robot is costume made, which is cool and new this year,” said Ton-That, whose father Hoa Ton-That is one of the team’s coaches. “Most of the parts are made specifically for this robot.”
The team’s founders have also been inspirations for others who have become team members.
Ananya Lingamallu joined the team after being mentored by the pair of founding members during her days in FLL.
Lingamallu said being with the team has taught her so much more than just robotics.
“Not only do you get to learn about the technical part by working hands-on, but you learn a lot through our outreach and the judging interviews for the awards help you get more confidence,” stated Lingamullu.
Anya Mishra, Atikan Nakacharoensith, Bella Weidmann, Carina Weidmann, and Isabella Noelle Objero are the five other members that make up a team that is excelling in and out of competition.
Lingamallu’s mother, Prasanthi Lingamallu, is one of the team’s coaches.
“Just being involved with them and seeing how they approach things, I am incredibly proud,” stated Prasanthi, who added that team members are “trailblazers” because of the work they do outside of robotics.
Outreach is also a big part of the team’s mission and the team has spent over 500 hours dedicated to outreach events to further the agenda of making STEM more accessible to girls and gender minorities.
Last September, the team attended the New Haven Pride Festival, showcasing the robot and allowing the kids at the event to operate the machine. They also used a custom laser cutter to create pronoun pins, which they sold at the event.
The team is also working with the University of Connecticut (UConn) Electrical and Computer Engineering department to organize the Husky Robotics Invitational that will be held on June 17 at the McHugh Hall on campus in Storrs.
UConn will be offering tours of the campus robotics lab and introducing participants to the school’s new robotics major, offering a pair of scholarships to seniors who are interested in the new major.
All of the hours of dedication to robotics and outreach have added up to three straight Inspire Awards at the state competition.
The Inspire Award is the most prestigious award and is given to the team that best embodies the challenge of the FIRST
Tech Challenge program. The team that receives the ward is considered a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and shares their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge with other teams, sponsors, their community, and the judges, as well as showing success in performing the task of designing and building a robot.
The Covid-19 pandemic canceled the World Competition the first year the team won the award in 2021. This year will mark the second consecutive year the local team will attend the massive event featuring over 190 teams from across the globe.
It will be the team’s last time using Wazowski in competition before repurposing the machine for next season.
Worlds are scheduled for April 19-22 in Houston, TX and the team is looking for sponsors or help with funding the trip.
A GoFundMe–gofund.me/3eeb2da7–has been started to help in these efforts
Visit armoredartemises.org to learn more about the team, or if you are interested in becoming a sponsor.
Wazowski is a one-of-a-kind custom robot created by the brilliant minds of Armored Artemises.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin